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The wildflower meadow bed

This year we have a new wildflower meadow bed coming into bloom in the Gardens. 

The wildflower meadow bed sits against the outside west wall the Sunken Garden. It was sown in October of last year, so this is its first year in flower and it is looking great. 

We used a wildflower seed mix to fill the bed, from a company called Pictoral Meadows that is specially tailored to suit the semi-shady site where the bed sits. 

The bed will be a permenant display. In the spring our Gardeners will cut it down and it will re-grow each year. 

At the start of the year it looks like a bed of weeds, but as the summer goes a mixture of woodland plants start to appear. It flowers from May through to September and by the end of the summer it is a beautiful mix of colours and scents. As you can see, the bed already looks wonderful. 

Can you identify any of the following plants?

Red Campion (Silene dioica)

Herb bennet (Geum urbanum)

Ox eye daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare)

Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea)

Crane's-bill geranium (Geranium pratense)

Columbine (Aquilegia vulgaris)

Tag your photos of the wildflower garden with #GrowingGardens and #Horniman on Instagram and Twitter.

About the Art: Jane Edden

We interviewed artist Jane Edden to hear more about the Flying Jacket artworks in her new Avian Forms exhibition now on display in the Natural History Gallery. 

What inspired the pieces in this exhibition?

I am fascinated by the way people collect, categorise, name and order objects in museums. Especially in the Victorian era.

I am also interested in the human obsession with flight.

Because of the interest in flight and categorisation I decided to look at stuffed birds, and especially small stuffed birds. When you look at a hummingbird, it looks impossible and too beautiful to exist. There is an almost fake look to them. I was trying to recreate that feeling of something so small and so perfect – and then introduce all the ideas about flight.

The Flying Jackets are beautiful – tell us more about those.

Humans are drawn to birds and feathers and flight and I think there is something innately human about wearing feathers. You go to a wedding and people have feathers stuck on their heads and it is the same in Papua New Guinea or Peru. People all over the world wear feathers on hats or coats or on other items of clothing and decoration. Even if you go for a walk in the park - you pick up a feather, twiddle it around and stick it in your button hole – it is just something that we do.

With the Flying Jackets, it was also about them being miniature. If you look at a dolls house you can imagine yourself in the house - you are able to move yourself into that space and imagine what it is like. Many people say with the Flying Jackets, ‘I would like one in my size’ but I think if I made one in life-size it wouldn’t have the same impact at all. Their size allows you to step out of where you are and into your imagination – and that is what interests me.

Some of the Flying Jackets are named after aeroplanes that are themselves named after birds, for example, Osprey. Some of the Flying Jackets are also named after Native Americans, who in turn wore feathers in their headdresses. I like the way by categorising them with these names, it brings the ideas of interaction between humans and birds full circle.  

See Avian Forms in the Natural History Gallery from 25 June - 9 October 2016. 

Brazil Food Garden

The Horniman’s Festival of Brasil extends out into the Food Garden this summer. Among wildflowers in the green, gold, blue and white of the Brazilian flag, we’ve grouped some of our food plants by recipe to give you a taste of the country’s vibrant food and drink culture.

Brazil’s cuisine is a mixture of European, African and South American influences, and in the display you’ll find plants from the Old and New Worlds and from temperate and tropical regions.

One of the most important tropical crops for us to include was Manihot esculentum, otherwise known as cassava or manioc. This fast-growing shrub is native to Brazil and produces starchy tubers – like potatoes or yams – that have been a staple food in South America for thousands of years. You can find cassava growing in the tacaca and arrumadinho sections of the garden.

It is not an easy plant to source in the UK and ours were grown from seed sown in January this year.

Elsewhere in the garden you’ll find the black beans needed to make the popular pork and bean stew feijoada, the okra used in the West African-influenced caruru, and of course the lime and sugar cane needed to mix a proper caipirinha

It wouldn’t be a Brazilian summer without a bit of colour so around our recipes we’ve sown a mixture of wildflowers in the colours of the Brazilian flag.

Against a background of green foliage Glebionis segetum (Corn marigold) gives us yellow, Centaurea cyanus (Cornflower) blue, and Silene latifolia (White campion) the white of the stars in the centre of the flag. The seed was sown in April and is just now – with no help from the June weather – starting to come into flower.

Look out too for a splash of red from the bedding Salvia ‘Forest Fire’ (the red Salvias that have been popular bedding plants since the 19th Century were bred from the Brazilian native Salvia splendens) and some lively Brazilian street art on boards around the garden.

Nós: sharing culture through movement

Dance artists Fernanda Prata and Ben King will be performing their piece, Nós, at our Festa Julina on Sunday 3 July and at our Labirinto Late event on 28 July. 

Fernanda Prata was born in Basil, Rio de Janeiro, and now works as a movement director, yoga practitioner and as a tutor at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance and Ben King is a London-based performer and dance artist graduated from Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance.

Being Brazilian and English respectively, Fernanda and Ben share their personal and cultural identity with the audience and each other in this performance.

It is an interactive piece, as the audience can select and change the music from a playlist that switches from Brazilian tunes such as Chega De Saudade by Joao Gilberto, Samba e Amor by Bebel Gilberto, Mas Que Nada by Jorge Ben Jor and Domingo No Parque by Gilberto Gil to British songs like Miss You by The Rolling Stones, the theme from Fawlty Towers by Celticana, Angie by Bert Jansch, The Girl From Ipanema by Amy Winehouse and Blackbird by The Beatles.

Each song has its own scene, and the movements are inspired by the Tropicália movement where artists such as Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso would feed from artists of different cultures, digesting their work like a cultural cannibalism, allowing it to influence their own work.

Come along to the Festa Julina on 3 July and Labirinto on 28 July to see this cross-cultural performace piece being performed at the Horniman. 

Special thanks to Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, Suzie Holmes and Milk Films Café.

Brazil's melting pot in South London

Mariana Pinto from Gandaia Arts has been giving us the low down on how they are involved in the Festival of Brasil, what being Brazilian means to her and what you can expect at Festa Julina and the Horniman Carnival.

​“This season we partnered with the Horniman to develop the elements of decor, costume, dance, games and drumming, in workshop sessions for the opening event Festa Julina and the Horniman carnival. We are blending the use of traditional materials and techniques with the different groups we have worked with. This meant a very creative gathering of buntings, glittering, painting and dance fusions with Trinity Laban amongst many!

“Being Brazilian means that, wherever you go in the world you are welcome! Brazilian culture is a big part of our daily lives so in my case it was natural to make crafts whilst listening to music at home. My mum used to take me to Sambas as our family is from Rio. I was born in Brasilia as my parents moved there from Rio to work and by being brought into Brazil's melting pot, I learnt how to admire the difference between the two cities. This has prepared me to adapt and learn from all the many 'Brazils' and each of their cultural wealth, which I am proud to share via my work in dance, music, making and production!

“Similarities are very few between the UK and Brazil. Maybe the one that I can clearly see (especially about London) is that like Brazil, the UK has been filled with people from all over the world. London is a world city that embraces other cultures! ​I think the festival is already bringing smiles and fun to those involved.

“We have the making sessions with music and it’s great to see not only the kids or participants, but also their group leaders, singing and dancing around as even they lose track of the time. Both Festa Julina and the Horniman Carnival will be a true burst of the result of over 40 sessions! As for the audience, I can’t wait to see them joining in and enjoying every bit of it, as the costumes will be filled with dancers and characters.

“The Horniman Museum itself will be dressed in full Brazilian style!”

About the Art: Dotted Line Theatre

Dotted Line Theatre have been telling us about the work they have been doing for the Festival of Brasil.

Can you tell us a bit about your theatre piece?

At the Dotted Line Theatre we create an original performance with a playful quality and a strong visual style. For the Festival of Brasil we have created a puppetry and music performance called Stories on a String. This is our second project for the Horniman and we are delighted to be back.

How did you come up with the ideas for Stories on a String?

We have been inspired by Brazilian literatura de cordels, booklets of stories, poetry and news, with woodblock printed illustrations on their front covers. The booklets are hung up for sale on cords or string. A literal translation of the term literatura de cordel is ‘stories on a string’.

That gave us the idea of creating a puppet show where the woodblock printed characters of literatura de cordel come to life as puppets and exist in a world of paper and string.

Cordels are sold in market places and shops, so our show takes place on a market stall cart. Our puppets and landscapes fold out from the cordels hanging up for sale, and take over the cart space.

Brazilian cordels also form part of an oral tradition of performed music and poetry. We have a group of musicians in the cordel tradition, who accompany our puppet show and have created our own literatura de cordel story.

Why did you want to tell this story?

We wanted to create a story that had a broad sweep of Brazilian life, quite ambitious in a 20-25 min performance! Our story travels from the city to the Amazon forest, from the South to the North, it has characters that are old and young, real and mythical.

Our central character is a young girl from São Paulo, who travels on a quest for her grandmother. Some of the folklore of the Amazon appears in our story, so you’ll get to meet the mythical characters of Saci Perere, Curupira and Matinta Pereira.

How did you go about creating the puppets and the music?

We’ve been working hard on our puppet designs, under our lead illustrator Jum Faruq, who is also one of our puppeteers, and with Emilia Liberatore and Tom Crame, and our designs are all in the style of the woodblock cordel illustrations. Our puppets are 2D so we have tried to be inventive with the perspective they are drawn in, how they are revealed and how they move to tell our story.

Our music has been composed by Rachel Hayter with Camilo Menjura. It draws on the musical tradition of literatura de cordel but with some modern and atmospheric music added to the mix to help underscore the drama when the puppets are moving. There is so much energy and rhythm in the music of the country, it is a joy to work with. We hope you might join in with the music in a few places during our show!

We’ve developed the piece collaboratively in the rehearsal room, so the script, the design and the music were all created in relation to one another. It can be a bit ‘chicken-and-egg’ as a creative process, but hopefully that means that all the elements are cohesive.

I hope it gives a flavour of our influences, the cordels and the Amazon!

What does Brazil mean to you?

Rachel, our composer, has lived and worked in Brazil, and specialises in performing and teaching Brazilian music. It is her passion. You can see photos about her experiences (particularly her time in the Amazon with the Turudjam tribe) on Rachel’s blog.

 Catch Stories on a String from Dotted Line Theatre at Festa Julina (3 July) and on Big Wednesday (17 August).

About the Art: Flavio Graff

As part of our Festival of Brasil, we’ve been speaking to Flavio Graff, a London-based artist, who has created an installation and performance called Theatrical Giant Puppets of Olinda. His creations and performance will be debuted at Festa Julina on 3 July and also at the Horniman Carnival in September.

How did you come up with your ideas for the giant puppets and performance?

I was inspired by the amazing collection shown at the Horniman Museum and Gardens, especially the masks and a massive puppet sculpture in the African gallery. I wanted to connect them with the Brazilian Giant Puppets from Olinda but in an interactive way, as people would be able to go inside and experience what they discover inside the puppets.

The idea is to create an intersection between the Brazilian culture with its traditional food and songs from Festa Julina, crossed with the traditional puppets from Olinda’s Carnival that were inspired in turn by the puppets used in religious parties in Europe, especially in Belgium.

How did you go about creating the puppets?

It was a handcrafted process just like how the original puppets used to be made. The heads are made of papier mâché, hand painted, and the fabrics used for their costumes are the traditional colourful Chita.

How will the giant puppets work as part of your performance?

The installation will be set up in the Gardens connecting two giant puppets (four metres in height) – a couple which are reminiscent of the two first puppets designed for the Olinda’s Carnival in the 1920s. Instead of two separated puppets their bodies give shape to a tent where people can go inside. Visitors will be offered a Brazilian traditional sweet just as it happens in the traditional food stalls at the Festa Julina. Three traditional characters – Harlequin, Columbine and a Clown - from the Brazilian Carnival will interact with people inviting them to visit the installation and telling the story of the puppets.

What would you like people to think about when they see your work?

I would like to bring the festive atmosphere of Carnival and Festa Julina from the streets of Olinda to central London. I want to create a feeling of happiness, joy and laughter when people see the bright and colourful puppets. I want to invoke the feeling of celebration with music, dancing and performance.

What does Brazil mean to you?

Brazil is a multicultural continental place where so many different people from all around the world live together sharing their experiences and traditions. From this rich crossing the Brazilian culture emerges in unexpected, creative and most of all inclusive ways.

I think that every culture mix is important to improve our development as open-minded people learning from different points of views and unusual perspectives how to be more generous.

See Flavio’s creations at Festa Julina (3 July) and at the Horniman Carnival (4 September).

Redstart Arts on display

You may have read the blog that one of our community partners, Redstart Arts, wrote during a recent residency at the museum. well you can now see the sculptures displayed in the Forest Hill Sainsbury’s window. It is only up until the start of July – so go and have a look while you can!

Cash Aspeek, the artist who leads the group, tells us more about the exhibition:

'It was very important for us to be able to showcase our Horniman works at a place that would allow a really wide audience and also become part of the Forest Hill art scene. The window at Sainsbury’s in Forest Hill seemed appropriate – it overlooks the main road in Forest Hill and countless people walk past each day.

We spent a lot of time improving the space, to ensure that the work was displayed professionally. The ‘Redstart Arts’ sign is handwritten on the back wall by one of volunteers, Jez.

While we were installing the display, there was a constant stream of people in the shop and on the street, who were actively interested in the work. It was really exciting and satisfying to know that the exhibition was engaging the local people and that the Redstarts’ work would be seen by so many. Sainsbury’s have kindly agreed that we can use the display for 6 weeks and importantly the display will be up during Learning Disability Awareness Week.'

Carnival in Rio

An exhibition of musical instruments played in carnival processions in Rio de Janeiro has opened in the Horniman’s Music Gallery. Our Keeper of Musical Instruments, Margaret Birley, introduces us to the new display.

'The Carnival in Rio exhibition contains examples of instruments played by Monobloco, a band with a huge following, whose annual street parade is one of the highlights of the carnival season. It is part of a larger array of instruments used in seasonal festivals around the world.

When new musical instruments are collected for the Horniman, we always aim to film and photograph them in performance. These images capture not only performance technique but also cultural contexts for performance, and something of their repertoire. The project to collect instruments in Rio last year provided a wealth of opportunities for me to film examples played not only by members of Monobloco, but also by other blocos de rua or street bands from various districts of the city during carnival. Extracts from the films form part of the exhibition in the Music Gallery.

While the streets are the backdrop for the blocos’ processions during carnival, Rio’s Sambadrome, a 700 metre long stadium, hosts the competitive parades of the larger samba schools. Here, each parade has a specific theme, reflected in the large floats and costumed characters of the numerous participants.

The exhibition in the Music Gallery also includes a colourful costume made for the samba school, Imperatriz Leopoldinense for Harlequin, a character from Italian commedia dell’arte.'

Charms, amulets and resilience

Our museum youth theatre groups are inspired by the Horniman amulet collection to create Discovery Boxes of magic and protection. 

Every Monday, we work in partnership with GLYPT to hold two museum youth theatre groups – one for eight-11 year olds and one for 11-14 year olds. This is part of GLYPT’s ‘Whatever’ programme.

Each term, the 2 groups work to a particular museum theme. As the Horniman holds lots of amulets and charms in its collection, in Spring Term we used these and the idea of ‘magic and protection’ for inspiration. This theme was also an interesting way to explore ideas of wellbeing resilience with participants.

Before the drama session starts, there is always Safe Space – this is time to do some artwork, relax after school, chat with others and have a snack. During Safe Space the 11-14 year olds have been making a ‘Discovery Box’ of magic and protection.

Here is the group’s description of the box:
This box has been created by the Whatever Makes You Happy Group in Spring 2016 that meet every Monday and use the objects in the Museum to inspire their drama sessions. In our Discovery Box you’ll find objects that represent magic and protection. It includes:
• Potions of protection.
• Handmade amulets.
• Candle light holders to light the way home.
• Mandalas.
• An individually-designed charm bracelet with a horse shoe for luck, a wand for magic, a symbol for a best friend and a heart for love.

Here are the ingredients to Summer’s Sunshine Magic Potion and powers they could give you:
• One cup of magical gems.
• Three cups of feathers – protection that guides the way.
• Two sparkly bells of happiness and forgiveness.
• Three drops of sweets that tells you the path to go on.
• One magic shell of sound that protects you from danger.
• Finally two blue and yellow see through papers that turn you invisible whenever you want.

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